Posts Tagged ‘Conviction’

Question 72-Puritan Catechism

Spurgeon 3Q. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convicting and converting sinners, (Psalm 19:7) and of building them up in holiness and comfort, (1 Thessalonians 1:6) through faith to salvation. (Romans 1:16)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

On the right Use of the Law

December 16, 2013 1 comment

Dear Sir,

You desire my thoughts on 1Ti_2 1:8, “We know the law is good, if a man use it lawfully,” and I willingly comply. I do not mean to send you a sermon on the text; yet a little attention to method may not be improper upon this subject, though in a letter to a friend. Ignorance of the nature and design of the law is at the bottom of most religious mistakes. This is the root of self-righteousness, the grand reason why the Gospel of Christ is no more regarded, and the cause of that uncertainty and inconsistence in many, who, though they profess themselves teachers, understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm. If we previously state what is meant by the Law, and by what means we know the law to be good, I think it will, from these premises, be easy to conclude what it is to use the law lawfully.

The law, in many passages of the Old Testament, signifies the whole revelation of the will of God, as in Psa_2 1:2, and Psa_2 19:7. But the law, in a strict sense, is contradistinguished from the Gospel. Thus the Apostle considers it at large in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. I think it evident, that, in the passage you have proposed, the Apostle is speaking of the law of Moses. But, to have a clearer view of the subject, it may be proper to look back to a more early period.

The law of God, then, in the largest sense, is that rule, or prescribed course, which he has appointed for his creatures according to their several natures and capacities, that they may answer the end for which he has created them. Thus it comprehends the inanimate creation. The wind or storm fulfills his word or law. He hath appointed the moon for its seasons; and the sun knoweth his going down, or going forth, and performs all its revolutions according to its Maker’s pleasure. If we could suppose the sun was an intelligent being, and should refuse to shine, or should wander from the station in which God had placed it, it would then be a transgressor of the law. But there is no such disorder in the natural world. The law of God in this sense, or what many choose to call the law of nature, is no other than the impression of God’s power, whereby all things continue and act according to his will from the beginning: for “he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.”

The animals destitute of reason are likewise under a law; that is, God has given them instincts according to their several kinds, for their support and preservation, to which they invariably conform. A wisdom unspeakably superior to all the contrivance of mall disposes their concernments, and is visible in the structure of a bird’s nest, or the economy of a bee-hive. But this wisdom is restrained within narrow limits; they act without any remote design, and are incapable either of good or evil in a moral sense.

When God created man, he taught him more than the beasts of the earth, and made him wiser than the fowls of heaven. He formed him for himself, breathed into him a spirit immortal and incapable of dissolution, gave him a capacity not to be satisfied with any creature good, endued him with an understanding, will, and affections, which qualified him for the knowledge and service of his Maker, and a life of communion with him. The law of God, therefore, concerning man, is that rule of disposition and conduct to which a creature so constituted ought to conform; so that the end of his creation might be answered, and the wisdom of God be manifested in him and by him. Man’s continuance in this regular and happy state was not necessary, as it is in the creatures who, having no rational faculties, have properly no choice, but act under the immediate agency of Divine power. As man was capable of continuing in the state in which he was created, so he was capable of forsaking it. He did so, and sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. We are not to suppose that this prohibition was the whole of the law of Adam, so that, if he had abstained from the tree of knowledge, he might in other respects have done (as we say) what he pleased. This injunction was the test of his obedience; and while he regarded it, he could have no desire contrary to holiness, because his nature was holy. But when he broke through it, he broke through the whole law, and stood guilty of idolatry, blasphemy, rebellion, and murder. The divine light in his soul was extinguished; the image of God defaced; he became like Satan, whom he had obeyed; and lost his power to keep that law which was connected with his happiness. Yet still the law remained in force: the blessed God could not lose his right to that reverence, love, and obedience, which must always be due to him from his intelligent creatures. Thus Adam became a transgressor, and incurred the penalty, death. But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his eternal purpose, revealed the promise of the Seed of the woman, and instituted sacrifices as types of that atonement for sin, which tic in the fulness of time should accomplish by the sacrifice of himself.

Adam, after his fall, was no longer a public person; he was saved by grace, through faith; but the depravity he had brought upon human nature remained. his children, and so all his posterity, were born in his sinful likeness, without either ability or inclination to keep the law. The earth was soon filled with violence. But a few in every successive age were preserved by grace, and faith in the promise. Abraham was favored with a more full and distinct revelation of the covenant of grace; he saw the day of Christ and rejoiced. In the time of Moses, God was pleased to set apart a peculiar people to himself, and to them he published his law with great solemnity at Sinai; this law consisted of two distinct parts, very different in their scope and design, though both enjoined by the same authority.

The Decalogue, or ten commands, uttered by the voice of God himself, is an abstract of that original law under which man was created; but published in a prohibitory form, the Israelites, like the rest of mankind, being depraved by sin, and strongly inclined to the commission of every evil. This law could not be designed as a covenant, by obedience to which man should be justified; for long before its publication the Gospel had been preached to Abraham, Gal_48 3:8. But the law entered, that sin might abound; that the extent, the evil, and the desert of sin might be known; for it reaches to the most hidden thoughts of the heart, requires absolute and perpetual obedience, and denounces a curse upon all who continue not therein.

To this was superadded the ceremonial or Levitical law, prescribing a variety of institutions, purifications, and sacrifices; the observance of which were, during that dispensation, absolutely necessary to the acceptable worship of God. By obedience to these prescriptions, the people of Israel preserved their legal right to the blessings promised to them as a nation, and which were not confined to spiritual worshippers only: and they were likewise ordinances and helps to lead those who truly feared God, and had conscience of sin, to look forward by faith to the great sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who in the fulness of time was to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself. In both these respects the ceremonial law was abrogated by the death of Christ. The Jews then ceased to be God’s peculiar people; and Jesus having expiated sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness by his obedience unto death, all other sacrifices became unnecessary and vain. The Gospel supplies the place of the ceremonial law, to the same advantage as the sun abundantly compensates for the twinkling of the stars and the feeble glimmering of moon-light, which are concealed by its glory. Believers of old were relieved from the strictness of the moral law by the sacrifices which pointed to Christ. Believers under the Gospel are relieved by a direct application of the blood of the covenant. Both renounce any dependence on the moral law for justification, and both accept it as a rule of life in the hands of the Mediator, and are enabled to yield it a sincere, though not a perfect, obedience.

If an Israelite, trusting in his obedience to the moral law, had ventured to reject the ordinances of the ceremonial, he would have been cut off. In like manner, if any who are called Christians are so well satisfied with their moral duties, that they see no necessity of making Christ their only hope, the law, by which they seek life, will be to them a ministration unto death. Christ, and he alone, delivers us, by faith in his name, from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us.

A second inquiry is, How we came to know the law to be good? For naturally we do not, we cannot think so. We cannot be at enmity with God, and at the same time approve of his law; rather, this is the ground of our dislike to him, that we conceive the law by which we are to be judged is too strict in its precepts, and too severe in its threatenings; and therefore men, so far as in them lies, are for altering this law. They think it would be better if it required no more than we can perform, if it allowed us more liberty, and especially if it was not armed against transgressors with the penalty of everlasting punishment. This is evident from the usual pleas of unawakened sinners. Some think, “I am not so bad as some others;” by which they mean, God will surely make a difference, and take favorable notice of what they suppose good in themselves. Others plead, “If I should not obtain mercy, what will become of the greatest part of mankind?” by which they plainly intimate, that it would be hard and unjust in God to punish such multitudes. Others endeavor to extenuate their sins, as Jonathan once said, I did but taste a little honey, and I must die. “These passions are natural to me, and. must I die for indulging them?” In short, the spirituality and strictness of the law, its severity, and its leveling effect, confounding all seeming differences in human characters, and stopping every month without distinction, are three properties of the law, which the natural man cannot allow to be good.

These prejudices against the law can only be removed by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is his office to enlighten and convince the conscience; to communicate an impression of the majesty, Holiness, justice, and authority of the God with whom we have to do, whereby the evil and desert of sin is apprehended: the sinner is then stripped of all his vain pretenses, is compelled to plead guilty, and must justify his Judge, even though he should condemn him. It is his office likewise to discover the grace and glory of the Savior, as having fulfilled the law for us, and as engaged by promise to enable those who believe in him to honor it with a due obedience in their own persons. Then a change of judgment takes place, and the sinner consents to the law, that it is holy, just, and good. Then the law is acknowledged to be holy: it manifests the holiness of God; and a conformity to it is the perfection of human nature. There can be no excellence in man, but so far as he is influenced by God’s law: without it, the greater his natural powers and abilities are, he is but so much the more detestable and mischievous. It is assented to as just, springing from his indubitable right and authority over his creatures, and suited to their dependence upon him, and the abilities with which he originally endowed them. And though we by sin have lost those abilities, his right remains un-alienable; and therefore he can justly punish transgressors. And as it is just in respect to God, so it is good for man; his obedience to the law, and the favor of God therein, being His proper happiness, and it is impossible for him to be happy in any other way. Only, as I have hinted, to sinners these things must be applied according to the Gospel, and to their new relation by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has obeyed the law, and made atonement for sin on their behalf; so that through him they are delivered from condemnation, and entitled to all the benefits of his obedience: from him likewise they receive the law, as a rule enforced by his own example and their unspeakable obligations to his redeeming love. This makes obedience pleasing; and the strength they derive from him makes it easy.

We may now proceed to inquire, in the last place, What it is to use the law lawfully? The expression implies, that it may be used unlawfully; and it is so by too many. It is not a lawful use of the law to seek justification and acceptance with God by our obedience to it; because it is not appointed for this end, or capable of answering it in our circumstances. The very attempt is a daring impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of God; for if righteousness could come by the law, then Christ has died in vain; Gal_48 2:21, Gal_48 3:21 : so that such a hope is not only groundless, but sinful; and, when persisted in under the light of the Gospel, is no less than a willful rejection of the grace of God.–Again: It is an unlawful use of the law, that is, an abuse of it, an abuse both of law and Gospel, to pretend that its accomplishment by Christ releases believers from any obligation to it as a rule. Such an assertion is not only wicked, but absurd and impossible in the highest degree: for the law is founded in the relation between the Creator and the creature, and must unavoidably remain in force so long as that relation subsists. While he is God, and we are creatures, in every possible or supposable change of state or circumstances, he must have an unrivaled claim to our reverence, love, trust, service, and submission. No true believer can deliberately admit a thought or a wish of being released from his obligation of obedience to God, in whole or in part; he will rather start from it with abhorrence. But Satan labors to drive unstable souls from one extreme to the other, and has too often succeeded. Wearied with vain endeavors to keep the law, that they might obtain life by it, and afterwards taking up with a notion of the Gospel devoid of power, they have at length despised that obedience which is the honor of a Christian, and essentially belongs to his character, and have abused the grace of God to licentiousness. But we have not so learned Christ.

To speak affirmatively, The law is lawfully used as a means of conviction of sin: for this purpose it was promulgated at Sinai. The law entered, that sin might abound: not to make men more wicked, though occasionally and by abuse it has that effect, but to make them sensible how wicked they are. Having God’s law in our hands, we are no longer to form our judgments by the maxims and customs of the world, where evil is called good, and good evil; but are to try every principle, temper, and practice, by this standard. Could men be prevailed upon to do this, they would soon listen to the Gospel with attention. On some the Spirit of God does thus prevail: then they earnestly make the jailer’s inquiry, “What must I do to be saved?” Here the work of grace begins; and the sinner, condemned in his own conscience, is brought to Jesus for life.

Again: When we use the law as a glass to behold the glory of God, we use it lawfully. His glory is eminently revealed in Christ; but much of it is with a special reference to the law, and cannot be otherwise discerned. We see the perfection and excellence of the law in his life: God was glorified by his obedience as a man. What a perfect character did he exhibit! yet it is no other than transcript of the law. Such would have been the character of Adam and all his race, had the law been duly obeyed. It appears therefore a wise and holy institution, fully capable of displaying that perfection of conduct by which man would have answered the end of his creation. And we see the inviolable strictness of the law in his death. There the glory of God in the law is manifested. Though he was the beloved Son, and had yielded personal obedience in the utmost perfection, yet, when he stood in our place to make atonement for sin, he was not spared. From what he endured in Gethsemane and upon the cross, we learn the meaning of that awful sentence, “The soul that sinneth shall die.”

Another lawful use of the law is, to consult it as a rule and pattern by which to regulate our spirit and conversation. The grace of God, received by faith, will dispose us to obedience in general; but, through remaining darkness and ignorance, we are much at a loss as to particulars. We are therefore sent to the law, that we may learn how to walk worthy of God, who has called us to his kingdom and glory; and every precept has its proper place and use.

Lastly: We use the law lawfully when we improve it as a test whereby to judge of the exercise of grace. Believers differ so much from what they once were, and from what many still are, that, without this right use of the law, comparing themselves with their former selves, or with others, they would be prone to think more highly of their attainments than they ought. But when they recur to this standard, they sink into the dust, and adopt the language of Job, “Behold, I am vile; I cannot answer thee one of a thousand?” From hence we may collect, in brief, how the law is good to them that use it lawfully. It furnishes them with a comprehensive and accurate view of the will of God, and the path of duty. By the study of the law, they acquire an habitual spiritual taste of what is right or wrong. The exercised believer, like a skillful workman, has a rule in his hand, whereby he can measure and determine with certainty: whereas others judge as it were by the eye, and can only make a random guess, in which they are generally mistaken. It likewise, by reminding them of their deficiencies and short-comings, is a sanctified means of making and keeping them humble; and it exceedingly endears Jesus, the law-fulfiller, to their hearts, and puts them in mind of their obligations to him, and of their absolute dependence upon him every moment.

If these reflections should prove acceptable to you, I have my desire; and I send them to you by the press, in hopes that the Lord may accompany them with his blessing to others. The subject is of great importance, and, were it rightly understood, might conduce to settle some of the angry controversies which have been lately agitated. Clearly to understand the distinction, connection, and harmony between the law and the Gospel, and their mutual subserviency to illustrate and establish each other, is a singular privilege, and a happy means of preserving the soul from being entangled by errors on the right hand or the left.

I am, &c.

John Newton-Letter 30 from Volume 1 of The Works of John Newton

Beware of deriving comfort from the distress of mind

April 29, 2013 3 comments

fuller3. Beware of deriving comfort from the distress of mind which you may have undergone, or from any feelings within you. Some religious people will tell you, that these workings of mind are a sign that God has mercy in reserve for you; and that, if you go on in the way you are in waiting as at the pool, all will be well in the end; but such language requires great qualification. It is not your being distressed in mind that will prove anything in your favor, but the issue of it. Saul was distressed as well as Davis and Judas, as well as Peter. When the murderers of our Lord were pricked in their hearts, Peter did not comfort them by representing this their unhappiness as a hopeful sign of conversion; but exhorted them to repent, and be baptized every one them in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.

And thus it was with Paul and Silas, when the jailer was impressed with fear and dismay: they gave him no encouragement from thence, but preached Jesus Christ as the only source of hope. If one who had slain a man in Israel, had stopped short of the City of refuge, and endeavored to draw comfort from the alarm which he had felt, lest the avenger of blood should overtake him, would he have been safe? There is no security to you or to any man, but in fleeing immediately to the Gospel-refuge and laying hold of the hope set before you. If you take comfort from your distress, you are in immiment danger of stopping short of Christ, and so of perishing for ever. Many no doubt, have done so; and that which they have accounted waiting at the pool for the moving of the waters, has proved no other than settling upon a false foundation. Indeed, it must needs be so; for as there is no medium in one that has heard the gospel, between faith and unbelief, he that does not believe in Jesus for salvation, if be have any hope of it, must derive that hope from something in himself.

Rev. Andrew Fuller–The Great Question Answered

Beware of self reformation through personal convictions

April 22, 2013 4 comments

fullerConsider, and beware, I say again, as you regard your eternal salvation, that you take up your rest in nothing short of Christ! Particularly,

2. Beware of dwelling in a way of self complacency, on those reformations which may have been produced by the power of conviction This is another of those workings of unbelief, by which many have come short of believing, and so of entering into rest. There is no doubt but your convictions have driven you from the commission of grosser vices, and probably have frightened you into a compliance with various religious duties: but these are only the loppings off of the branched of sin; the root remains unmortified. It is not the breaking off of your sins that will turn to any account, unless they be broken off by righteousness; and this will not-be the case but by believing in Christ. The power of corruption may have only retired into its strong holds, from whence, if you embrace not the Gospel way of salvation, it will soon come forth with increased energy and sweep away all your fancied reformations. Nay, it is very possible that while the lusts of the flesh have seemed to recede, those of the mind, particularly spiritual pride, may have already increased in strength. If, indeed, you dwell on your reformations, and draw comfort from them, it is an undoubted proof that it is so; and then, instead of being reformed, or nearer the kingdom of heaven than you were before your character is more offensive to God than ever. Publicans and harlots are more likely to enter into it than you.

Besides if your reformations were ever so virtuous–which they are not, in his sight by whom actions are weighed–yet while you are an unbeliever, they cannot be accepted. You yourself must first be accepted in the Beloved, ere any thing that you offer can be received. “It does not consist with the honor of the majesty of the King of heaven and earth to accept of any thing from a condemned malefactor condemned by the justice of his own holy law, till that condemnation be removed.”

Rev. Andrew Fuller–The Great Question Answered

The Gospel will bring divisions, disputes, and disturb those comfortable in their sin

February 27, 2013 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-00157. Lastly, they are far from candid when they invidiously number up the disturbances, tumults, and disputes, which the preaching of our doctrine has brought in its trains and the fruits which, in many instances, it now produces for the doctrine itself is undeservedly charged with evils which ought to be ascribed to the malice of Satan. It is one of the characteristics of the divine word, that whenever it appears Satan ceases to slumber and sleep. This is the surest and most unerring test for distinguishing it from false doctrines which readily betray themselves, while they are received by all with willing ears, and welcomed by an applauding world. Accordingly, for several ages, during which all things were immersed in profound darkness, almost all mankind were mere jest and sport to the God of this world, who, like any Sardanapalus, idled and luxuriated undisturbed. For what else could he do but laugh and sport while in tranquil and undisputed possession of his kingdom? But when light beaming from above somewhat dissipated the darkness — when the strong man arose and aimed a blow at his kingdom — then, indeed, he began to shake off his wonted torpor, and rush to arms. And first he stirred up the hands of men, that by them he might violently suppress the dawning truth; but when this availed him not, he turned to snares, exciting dissensions and disputes about doctrine by means of his Catabaptists, and other portentous miscreants, that he might thus obscure, and, at length, extinguish the truth. And now he persists in assailing it with both engines, endeavoring to pluck up the true seed by the violent hand of man, and striving, as much as in him lies, to choke it with his tares, that it may not grow and bear fruit. But it will be in vain, if we listen to the admonition of the Lord, who long ago disclosed his wiles, that we might not be taken unawares, and armed us with full protection against all his machinations. But how malignant to throw upon the word of God itself the blame either of the seditions which wicked men and rebels, or of the sects which impostors stir up against it! The example, however, is not new. Elijah was interrogated whether it were not he that troubled Israel. Christ was seditious, according to the Jews; and the apostles were charged with the cringe of popular commotion. What else do those who, in the present day, impute to us all the disturbances, tumults, and contentions which break out against us? Elijah, however, has taught us our answer, (1 Kings 18:17, 18) It is not we who disseminate errors or stir up tumults, but they who resist the mighty power of God.

John Calvin-Prefatory Address to Francis King of the French-Institutes of the Christian Religion

The Holy Spirit reveals Christ to a sinner

Sometimes in the meeting I stop, and while there is dead silence, I ask you if you hear a voice. I do not mean when I ask it, do you hear it with your natural ear. I mean is there some voice speaking to your soul, some power touching you inside? Is some one making you feel as you never felt before. and you see your sins as you never saw them before? Is there One holding up before you the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that you never saw Him before, so that now He is not without form and comeliness, and so that now when you see Him you do desire Him? That is the Holy Spirit. He is showing you the things of Christ. He is showing them to the eye of the mind. He is placing them within the range of your spiritual vision so that you feel them, and are conscious that some power is inexplicably touching your soul. That is the work of the Holy Ghost.

B. H. Carroll—The Faith that Saves—Triumphant Faith

A warning to the young

Our subject contains a warning to the young. If he, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy: Then beware how you feel, and how you conduct under reproof. During the present revival how often have you been reproved by preaching, by conversation, by the conviction and conversion of your companions, by the admonitions and by the strivings of the Holy Spirit? How is this season likely to leave you? Certainly not as it found you. If you do not profit by all these warnings, you will be seven-fold harder than when it commenced.

What improvement have you made of all the warnings you have heard? Where are you now? If my preaching does not prove a savour of life, it will be a savour of death unto death to your souls. Every warning neglected is rendering your salvation less and less probable; it is making the work of repentance more and more difficult. You are wandering farther and farther from God-plunging deeper and deeper into misery at every step which you advance.

Asahel Nettleton-The Destruction of Hardened Sinners

God Reproves by his Spirit

By his Spirit. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him. The Spirit is sent to admonish. Its language is, “Sinner, whither are thou going, and what will be the end of thy sinful course? Prepare to meet thy God. “God (sometimes) reproves one sinner by the conviction and conversion of another. Here is one who has been your intimate friend, and companion. Your views and feelings and pursuits and objects of delight, and I may add, your sins too, have been the same. But yesterday he thought and spoke and acted in all respects like yourself. Today he is alarmed at his awful condition. He trembles in view of a judgment to come. Hither to he has been moving merely along with you side by side. But he dares follow you no farther. He has quit your company, and fled. But why? Alas, he finds himself a sinner-He has a soul to be saved or lost forever. This, my friends, is loud preaching to some of you. When near and dear friends begin to forsake and shun you, it is time for you to begin to look about you. This is a silent, but a solemn warning to you to Flee from the wrath to come. When you see or hear of a hardened sinner alarmed at his awful condition; it carries with it this solemn admonition. See the end to which you are coming. Though you may think to hold out, yet you cannot endure long. Your stout heart will soon tremble. And all your boasted courage will end in cowardice. See the fearful end to which you are fast approaching. You too must repent or perish.

Asahel Nettleton-The Destruction of Hardened Sinners

All of Grace—The Increase of Faith

Chapter Eleven

The Increase of Faith

HOW CAN WE OBTAIN an increase of faith? This is a very earnest question to many. They say they want to believe, but cannot. A great deal of nonsense is talked upon this subject. Let us be strictly practical in our dealing with it. Common sense is as much needed in religion as anywhere else. “What am I to do in order to believe?” One who was asked the best way to do a certain simple act, replied that the best way to do it was to do it at once. We waste time in discussing methods when the action is simple. The shortest way to believe is to believe. If the Holy Spirit has made you candid, you will believe as soon as truth is set before you. You will believe it because it is true. The gospel command is clear; “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” It is idle to evade this by questions and quibbles. The order is plain; let it be obeyed.

But still, if you have difficulty, take it before God in prayer. Tell the great Father exactly what it is that puzzles you, and beg Him by His Holy Spirit to solve the question. If I cannot believe a statement in a book, I am glad to inquire of the author what he means by it; and if he is a true man his explanation will satisfy me; much more will the divine explanation of the hard points of Scripture satisfy the heart of the true seeker. The Lord is willing to make himself known; go to Him and see if it is not so. Repair at once to your closet, and cry, “O Holy Spirit, lead me into the truth! What I know not, teach Thou me.”

Furthermore, if faith seems difficult, it is possible that God the Holy Spirit will enable you to believe if you hear very frequently and earnestly that which you are commanded to believe. We believe many things because we have heard them so often. Do you not find it so in common life, that if you hear a thing fifty times a day, at last you come to believe it? Some men have come to believe very unlikely statements by this process, and therefore I do not wonder that the good Spirit often blesses the method of often hearing the truth, and uses it to work faith concerning that which is to be believed. It is written, “Faith cometh by hearing”; therefore hear often. If I earnestly and attentively hear the gospel, one of these days I shall find myself believing that which I hear, through the blessed operation of the Spirit of God upon my mind. Only mind you hear the gospel, and do not distract your mind with either hearing or reading that which is designed to stagger you.

If that, however, should seem poor advice, I would add next, consider the testimony of others. The Samaritans believed because of what the woman told them concerning Jesus. Many of our beliefs arise out of the testimony of others. I believe that there is such a country asJapan; I never saw it, and yet I believe that there is such a place because others have been there.

I believe that I shall die; I have never died, but a great many have done so whom I once knew, and therefore I have a conviction that I shall die also. The testimony of many convinces me of that fact. Listen, then, to those who tell you how they were saved, how they were pardoned, how they were changed in character. If you will look into the matter you will find that somebody just like yourself has been saved. If you have been a thief, you will find that a thief rejoiced to wash away his sin in the fountain of Christ’s blood. If unhappily you have been unchaste, you will find that men and women who have fallen in that way have been cleansed and changed. If you are in despair, you have only to get among God’s people, and inquire a little, and you will discover that some of the saints have been equally in despaind joys, that He may produce in sinners a better mind toward their God. Be thankful for the providence which has made you poor, or sick, or sad; for by all this Jesus works the life of your spirit and turns you to Himself. The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our hearts on the black horse of affliction. Jesus uses the whole range of our experience to wean us from earth and woo us to Heaven. Christ is exalted to the throne of Heaven and earth in order that, by all the processes of His providence, He may subdue hard hearts unto the gracious softening of repentance.

Besides, He is at work at this hour by all His whispers in the conscience, by His inspired Book, by those of us who speak out of that Book, and by praying friends and earnest hearts. He can send a word to you which shall strike your rocky heart as with the rod of Moses, and cause streams of repentance to flow forth. He can bring to your mind some heart-breaking text out of Holy Scripture which shall conquer you right speedily. He can mysteriously soften you, and cause not conscience, and against the Holy Spirit, and against the love of Jesus, there is yet space for repentance.

Though you may be as hard as unbelieving at times and they will be pleased to tell you how the Lord delivered them. As you listen to one after another of those who have tried the word of God, and proved it, the divine Spirit will lead you to believe. Have you not heard of the African who was told by the missionary that water sometimes became so hard that a man could walk on it? He declared that he believed a great many things the missionary had told him; but he would never believe that. When he came toEnglandit came to pass that one frosty day he saw the river frozen, but he would not venture on it. He knew that it was a deep river, and he felt certain that he would be drowned if he ventured upon it. He could not be induced to walk the frozen water till his friend and many others went upon it; then he was persuaded, and trusted himself where others had safely ventured. So, while you see others believe in the Lamb of God, and notice their joy and peace, you will yourself be gently led to believe. The experience of others is one of God’s ways of helping us to faith. You have either to believe in Jesus or die; there is no hope for you but in Him.

A better plan is this — note the authority upon which you are commanded to believe, and this will greatly help you to faith. The authority is not mine, or you might well reject it. But you are commanded to believe upon the authority of God himself. He bids you believe in Jesus Christ, and you must not refuse to obey your Maker. The foreman of a certain works had often heard the gospel, but he was troubled with the fear that he might not come to Christ. His good master one day sent a card around to the works — “Come to my house immediately after work.” The foreman appeared at his master’s door, and the master came out, and said somewhat roughly, “What do you want, John, troubling me at this time? Work is done, what right have you here?” “Sir,” said he, “I had a card from you saying that I was to come after work.” “Do you mean to say that merely because you had a card from me you are to come up to my house and call me out after business hours?” “Well, Sir,” replied the foreman, “I do not understand you, but it seems to me that, as you sent for me, I had a right to come.” “Come in, John,” said his master, “I have another message that I want to read to you,” and he sat down and read these words: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Do you think after such a message from Christ that you can be wrong in coming to him?” The poor man saw it all at once, and believed in the Lord Jesus unto eternal life, because he perceived that he had good warrant and authority for believing. So have you, poor soul! You have good authority for coming to Christ, for the Lord himself bids you trust Him.

If that does not breed faith in you, think over what it is that you have to believe — that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered in the place and stead of sinners, and is able to save all who trust Him. Why, this is the most blessed fact that ever men were told to believe; the most suitable, the most comforting, the most divine truth that was ever set before mortal minds. I advise you to think much upon it, and search out the grace and love which it contains. Study the four Evangelists, study Paul’s epistles, and then see if the message is not such a credible one that you are forced to believe it.

If that does not do, then think upon the person of Jesus Christ — think of who He is, and what He did, and where He is, and what He is. How can you doubt Him? It is cruelty to distrust the ever truthful Jesus. He has done nothing to deserve distrust; on the contrary, it should be easy to rely upon Him. Why crucify Him anew by unbelief? Is not this crowning Him with thorns again, and spitting upon Him again? What! is He not to be trusted? What worse insult did the soldiers pour upon Him than this? They made Him a martyr; but you make Him a liar — this is worse by far. Do not ask how can I believe? But answer another question — How can you disbelieve?

If none of these things avail, then there is something wrong about you altogether, and my last word is, submit yourself to God! Prejudice or pride is at the bottom of this unbelief. May the Spirit of God take away your enmity and make you yield. You are a rebel, a proud rebel, and that is why you do not believe your God. Give up your rebellion; throw down your weapons; yield at discretion, surrender to your King. I believe that never did a soul throw up its hands in self-despair, and cry, “Lord, I yield,” but what faith became easy to it before long. It is because you still have a quarrel with God, and resolve to have your own will and your own way, that therefore you cannot believe. “How can ye believe,” said Christ, “that have honor one of another?” Proud self creates unbelief. Submit, O man. Yield to your God, and then shall you sweetly believe in your Savior. May the Holy Ghost now work secretly but effectually with you, and bring you at this very moment to believe in the Lord Jesus! Amen.

Charles H. Spurgeon—All of Grace

Follow along as we read this short but marvelous book. Download your copy here. Next chapter will go out Monday June 11 at 8:00 AM. Central Standard Time.

All of Grace—Just and the Justifier

Chapter four:

Just and the Justifier

WE HAVE SEEN the ungodly justified, and have considered the great truth, that only God can justify any man; we now come a step further and make the inquiry — How can a just God justify guilty men? Here we are met with a full answer in the words of Paul, in Romans3:21-26. We will read six verses from the chapter so as to get the run of the passage:

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

Here suffer me to give you a bit of personal experience. When I was under the hand of the Holy Spirit, under conviction of sin, I had a clear and sharp sense of the justice of God. Sin, whatever it might be to other people, became to me an intolerable burden. It was not so much that I feared hell, but that I feared sin. I knew myself to be so horribly guilty that I remember feeling that if God did not punish me for sin He ought to do so. I felt that the Judge of all the earth ought to condemn such sin as mine. I sat on the judgment seat, and I condemned myself to perish; for I confessed that had I been God I could have done no other than send such a guilty creature as I was down to the lowest hell. All the while, I had upon my mind a deep concern for the honor of God’s name, and the integrity of His moral government. I felt that it would not satisfy my conscience if I could be forgiven unjustly. The sin I had committed must be punished. But then there was the question how God could be just, and yet justify me who had been so guilty. I asked my heart: “How can He be just and yet the justifier?” I was worried and wearied with this question; neither could I see any answer to it. Certainly, I could never have invented an answer which would have satisfied my conscience.

The doctrine of the atonement is to my mind one of the surest proofs of the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture. Who would or could have thought of the just Ruler dying for the unjust rebel? This is no teaching of human mythology, or dream of poetical imagination. This method of expiation is only known among men because it is a fact; fiction could not have devised it. God Himself ordained it; it is not a matter which could have been imagined.

I had heard the plan of salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus from my youth up; but I did not know any more about it in my innermost soul than if I had been born and bred a Hottentot. The light was there, but I was blind; it was of necessity that the Lord himself should make the matter plain to me. It came to me as a new revelation, as fresh as if I had never read in Scripture that Jesus was declared to be the propitiation for sins that God might be just. I believe it will have to come as a revelation to every newborn child of God whenever he sees it; I mean that glorious doctrine of the substitution of the Lord Jesus. I came to understand that salvation was possible through vicarious sacrifice; and that provision had been made in the first constitution and arrangement of things for such a substitution. I was made to see that He who is the Son of God, co-equal, and co-eternal with the Father, had of old been made the covenant Head of a chosen people that He might in that capacity suffer for them and save them. Inasmuch as our fall was not at the first a personal one, for we fell in our federal representative, the first Adam, it became possible for us to be recovered by a second representative, even by Him who has undertaken to be the covenant head of His people, so as to be their second Adam. I saw that ere I actually sinned I had fallen by my first father’s sin; and I rejoiced that therefore it became possible in point of law for me to rise by a second head and representative. The fall by Adam left a loophole of escape; another Adam can undo the ruin made by the first. When I was anxious about the possibility of a just God pardoning me, I understood and saw by faith that He who is the Son of God became man, and in His own blessed person bore my sin in His own body on the tree. I saw the chastisement of my peace was laid on Him, and that with His stripes I was healed. Dear friend, have you ever seen that? Have you ever understood how God can be just to the full, not remitting penalty nor blunting the edge of the sword, and yet can be infinitely merciful, and can justify the ungodly who turn to Him? It was because the Son of God, supremely glorious in His matchless person, undertook to vindicate the law by bearing the sentence due to me, that therefore God is able to pass by my sin. The law of God was more vindicated by the death of Christ than it would have been had all transgressors been sent to Hell. For the Son of God to suffer for sin was a more glorious establishment of the government of God, than for the whole race to suffer.

Jesus has borne the death penalty on our behalf. Behold the wonder! There He hangs upon the cross! This is the greatest sight you will ever see. Son of God and Son of Man, there He hangs, bearing pains unutterable, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Oh, the glory of that sight! The innocent punished! The Holy One condemned! The Ever-blessed made a curse! The infinitely glorious put to a shameful death! The more I look at the sufferings of the Son of God, the more sure I am that they must meet my case. Why did He suffer, if not to turn aside the penalty from us? If, then, He turned it aside by His death, it is turned aside, and those who believe in Him need not fear it. It must be so, that since expiation is made, God is able to forgive without shaking the basis of His throne, or in the least degree blotting the statute book. Conscience gets a full answer to her tremendous question. The wrath of God against iniquity, whatever that may be, must be beyond all conception terrible. Well did Moses say, “Who knoweth the power of thine anger?” Yet when we hear the Lord of glory cry, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” and see Him yielding up the ghost, we feel that the justice of God has received abundant vindication by obedience so perfect and death so terrible, rendered by so divine a person. If God himself bows before His own law, what more can be done? There is more in the atonement by way of merit, than there is in all human sin by way of demerit.

The great gulf of  Jesus’ loving self-sacrifice can swallow up the mountains of our sins, all of them. For the sake of the infinite good of this one representative man, the Lord may well look with favor upon other men, however unworthy they may be in and of themselves. It was a miracle of miracles that the Lord Jesus Christ should stand in our stead and

Bear that we might never bear

His Father’s righteous ire.

But he has done so. “It is finished.” God will spare the sinner because He did not spare His Son. God can pass by your transgressions because He laid those transgressions upon His only begotten Son nearly two thousand years ago. If you believe in Jesus (that is the point), then your sins were carried away by Him who was the scapegoat for His people.

What is it to believe in Him? It is not merely to say, “He is God and the Savior,” but to trust Him wholly and entirely, and take Him for all your salvation from this time forth and forever — your Lord, your Master, your all. If you will have Jesus, He has you already. If you believe on Him, I tell you cannot go to hell; for that were to make the sacrifice of Christ of none effect. It cannot be that a sacrifice should be accepted, and yet the soul should die for whom that sacrifice has been received. If the believing soul could be condemned, then why a sacrifice? If Jesus died in my stead, why should I die also? Every believer can claim that the sacrifice was actually made for him: by faith he has laid his hands on it, and made it his own, and therefore he may rest assured that he can never perish. The Lord would not receive this offering on our behalf, and then condemn us to die. The Lord cannot read our pardon written in the blood of His own Son, and then smite us. That were impossible. Oh that you may have grace given you at once to look away to Jesus and to begin at the beginning, even at Jesus, who is the Fountain-head of mercy to guilty man!

“He justifieth the ungodly.” “It is God that justifieth,” therefore, and for that reason only it can be done, and He does it through the atoning sacrifice of His divine Son. Therefore it can be justly done — so justly done that none will ever question it — so thoroughly done that in the last tremendous day, when heaven and earth shall pass away, there shall be none that shall deny the validity of the justification. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”

Now, poor soul! will you come into this lifeboat, just as you are? Here is safety from the wreck! Accept the sure deliverance. “I have nothing with me,” say you. You are not asked to bring anything with you. Men who escape for their lives will leave even their clothes behind. Leap for it, just as you are.

I will tell you this thing about myself to encourage you. My sole hope for heaven lies in the full atonement made uponCalvary’s cross for the ungodly. On that I firmly rely. I have not the shadow of a hope anywhere else. You are in the same condition as I am; for we neither of us have anything of our own worth as a ground of trust. Let us join hands and stand together at the foot of the cross, and trust our souls once for all to Him who shed His blood for the guilty. We will be saved by one and the same Savior. If you perish trusting Him, I must perish too. What can I do more to prove my own confidence in the gospel which I set before you?

 Charles H. Spurgeon—All of Grace

Follow along as we read this short but marvelous book. Download your copy here. Next chapter will go out Monday May 14 at8:00 AM. Central Standard Time.